the same antitrust playbookonce used against them. Whether it’sthe legal battle over Google Books,Department of Justice reviews of vari-ous Google acquisitions, or other fights,Microsoft now stalks Google at every turn.
Finally, there’s the subsidy circus, withmore high-tech companies lining up atthe taxpayer-funded trough than ever.One
lambasts the waste, fraud, and abusethat runs rampant in America’s “univer-sal-service” system, which is supposedto guarantee that wireline telephoneservice be widespread and affordable. Just about everyone who wants a hard-wired phone has one these days, and Americans are “cutting the cord” fasterthan ever. And yet, those old govern-ment programs just keep growing.Many had hoped increasing wirelesscompetition would alleviate the needfor such subsidies. Instead, the wirelessindustry’s lobby is content to demand a subsidy system that
in typical ‘better-us-than-them’fashion: “In a competitive busi-ness like wireless, it’s not easy tosit idly by while your competi-tors tap into a new revenuestream. Nor is it consistent withyour shareholders’ interests.”
And the High-Tech Pork Barrelis about to get a lot bigger. InMarch, the FCC released a 360-page
(none dare call it an industrial pol-icy) that will invite even more of this behavior, with its calls for sig-nificant expansion of subsidiesfor the diffusion of broadbandservices. Amazingly,
claimingthat the bulk of the bill will be cov-ered by increased spectrum auc-tions. That’s nonsense, of course, and thescheme will only grow more expensive forconsumers in the long-run as more com-panies line up for handouts. Worse yet,the more checks government writes, themore opportunities it will have to exercisecontrol—subtle or blatant—over more lay-ers of the Internet and the speech thattravels over it.
AT LEAST THE LOBBYISTS BENEFIT
Unsurprisingly, as a result of this inten-sifying political warfare,
is now completely out of con-trol. “The [high-tech] sector doubled itsfederal lobbying effort in a decade from$185 million in 1998 to a record $377.5million in 2008,”
the Center forResponsive Politics. “The biggest share of that increase came from the computer andInternet industry and the TV, movies andmusic industry.” Only the health care andfinancial/insurance/real estate sectors havespent more lobbying Washington in recentyears. Like other sectors, the recent reces-sion resulted in a slight downturn in techlobbying activity, but most expect thingsto return to normal shortly.According to
, 4 of the top 20 spenderson federal lobbying in the first half of 2010were broadband companies. Although few Silicon Valley firms evenhad a D.C. office a decade ago, today legionsof their lobbyists descend on the Capitoland regulatory-agency hearing rooms eachday. House and Senate Commerce Com-mittee hearings on high-tech and media policy issues are packed like rock concertsand have lines out the door that stretch lit-erally around the buildings some days.
Perhaps weshouldn’t find itsurprising that somany players in thetech policy arena now look to throweach other under theBig Government busto gain marketplaceadvantages.
T o t a l L o b b y i n g S p e n d i n g
19981999 2000 200120022003 2004 2005 20062007 2008 2009
Lobbying & Political Spending by Communications & Electronics Sector
Source: Center for Responsive Politics.
Cato Policy Report